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Tue Jun 19, 2012, 06:00 PM


June 19, 2012

Senator Benjamin E. Nelson

RE: H2B Senate vote


I am shocked that you would vote for something that would continue to undermine the working men and women of organized labor. As much as we have done for this country to build a strong middle class and a fair, living wage, now at this time of high unemployment, we are looking to undermine our own people in this country. There is not a shortage of skilled workers. There is a shortage of FAIR PAY for skilled workers. You are pandering to big businesses that wish to make more money and pay their workers less money.

You have been a friend of mine for over 30 years, Ben, I must tell you this really hurts. I see American workers we represent struggling from day to day to get jobs. Senator Harkin's intent, in favor of construction jobs, exempted construction from the wage rule deferral in the H2B program to update (raise) the prevailing wage rate calculation of H2B workers' pay, making sure employers do not bring in “cheap labor” while ensuring contractors pay H2B workers typical pay for American workers.

Senator Harkin intended to “fix” legislation that was originally meant for “seasonal crab-pickers,” Senator!

This is a critical change that is direly needed, as building and construction trade workers’ high level of trained skills do not belong in the "seasonal" job sector classifications, in with hospitality, landscaping, and farming. Come tour apprenticeship programs in Omaha!

How complacent have you and other Senators voting against Harkin become? How many of the highly trained skills you are taking for granted (from medical gasses coming into our hospitals to complete welds in lengthy pipelines) and are willing now to exchange for unskilled workers proposed to be imported into our country to do this work at cheap wages?

The majority in the Democratic leadership understands this, and it is why Harkin proposed this critical change. When I see the action you have taken, Senator, it breaks my heart.

Senator Shelby’s amendment removes language that will now enable businesses to import foreign workers to do our construction, like unskilled seasonal farm workers “at below prevailing wages, thereby undercutting local standards” not only in pay, but in quality and skill-level!

The restrictions of H2B should not apply to construction and our building trades! With the unemployment rates twice the national average for construction, the needs here in the U. S., Omaha, and Southwest Iowa are best met by our own skilled construction workers, Ben! Importing foreign seasonal workers akin to seasonal crab-pickers would indeed be totally devastating to our economy, the middle class, and to the quality of the construction work we expect and will not get.

You can call any one of our skilled crafts and trades and they would supply skilled workers to you overnight, but OH! You would have to pay them a living wage so they could contribute to the ongoing dream of this great country of America.

Ben, I am asking you to reverse your vote on this issue and save your dignity and credibility among working class people of the State of Nebraska.

Terry Moore, President

Omaha Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

Cc: Senator Tom Harkin, Iowa

(Terry is now home and will be recovering from surgery over the next several days.)

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